How often we meet people who after saying something tasteless, remark in defence, “Forgive me for being blunt, but I’m made that way!”
Some time back, a friend of mine decided to start writing poetry, and sent me his first poem. My attitude towards reading that poem even before I saw it was, “Let me make him a great poet!” Which meant that I had to build him up, and then gently criticize if there was need for criticism; though in his case there was no need for it.
Yes, we have to speak out, but there’s a way to do so. Remember, “A soft answer turneth away wrath!”
When you speak out, learn to speak out not just to be heard, but to be able to change things. Tact is needed. Diplomacy has to be practised. Gentleness is an asset.
Also, very often, we show our own lack of knowledge when we criticize:
An elderly man who was very nearsighted thought of himself as an expert in evaluating art. One day he visited a museum with his friends. He had forgotten his glasses and couldn’t see the paintings clearly, but that did not stop him from airing his strong opinions.
As soon as they walked into the gallery, he started critiquing the various paintings. Stopping before what he thought was a full-length portrait, he began to criticize it.
With an air of superiority, he began, “The frame is altogether out of keeping with the picture. The man in the picture is too homely and shabbily dressed. In fact, it was a great mistake for the artist to select such a shoddy subject for his portrait!”
The old fellow was babbling on and on, when his wife finally managed to pull him aside, and whispered into his ear, “My dear, you are looking into a mirror!”
After you have laughed, let’s quickly go through the incident: The old man had not worn his glasses, which meant he was not equipped to judge, like many of us, who without knowledge or learning give our opinion on something we don’t know.
He was actually judging himself in the mirror, which shows he was actually criticizing his own inadequateness while thinking it was a painting.
Many of us do this when our criticism springs out of our own insecurity! As a wise man said, “It is the peculiar quality of a fool to perceive the faults of others not knowing it is his own!”
In my book DARE, in the chapter, Dare to Speak out, I have quoted Frederick Faber who says: “The art of saying appropriate words in a kindly way is one that never goes out of fashion, never ceases to please and is within the reach of the humblest.”
Let’s dare to ‘unblunt’ ourselves!